The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!
It’s no surprise that Ready Player One was constantly being referenced at GDC 2018, especially in VR, AR, and MMO panels. It’s not just because of the movie’s release but because the tech involved is seeing a surge of interest. That doesn’t mean we’re on the cusp, in my opinion, but it may be a thing we should start talking about.
And talking about it we did. As Bill Roper of Improbable and SpatialOS recently told me, “The next generation of online games isn’t going to behave like current-generation MMOs. […] We don’t know what a billion-person game might look like, but it’s likely to include a wide variety of playstyles, to reflect the diversity of its playerbase.” Even if you’re a cynic and don’t think SpatialOS will play any part of this future, Roper’s very much on the mark: Billion-person gaming isn’t going to be like our current MMOs.
SpatialOS: You’ve probably been seeing this name pop up more and more in the MMO sphere. Worlds Adrift, Mavericks, Fractured, Seed, MetaWorld, and Identity are just some of the titles we’ve mentioned that have sprung up to use Improbable’s platform. The company picked up more than half a billion dollars from Japanese company SoftBank, roped in MMO veteran Bill Roper, and got Jagex to announce its intention to use it in a future project. However Chronicles of Elyria recently noted it’s dropping Improbable’s baby, and both on and off the record, developers I spoke to at GDC 2018 had mixed reactions – assuming they’d even heard about SpatialOS at all.
What’s the big deal about the platform? What does it do? Why should developers care? Why should MMO players care? I attended a panel by Improbable and briefly sat down with CCO Bill Roper to try to figure it all out.
So as you may know, I’m an MMORPG guy – not really a battle royale guy. There are some cool ideas for people who like the combat of survival games turned up to 11, but that’s not my thing. I like community building, crafting, negotiating, and generally using my words to avoid direct combat. So when Automaton games announced Mavericks and said it’d be adding MMO elements to the battle royale genre, I got a bit excited. However, after having some hands-on time with the game and talking to Automaton Games’ CEO James Thompson at this year’s GDC, I’ve come to the realization that it’s much more for the battle royale crowd than the MMO crowd, and this will be especially true at launch.
Normally there’s a firm line of separation between battle royale-style multiplayer shooters and the full-fledged MMORPG, but Automaton’s Mavericks may be about to change all of that.
The online tactical shooter has a couple of advantages that may set it apart and above its competition when it comes out this year. For starters, it’s using the Cryengine to create a large “photo-realistic” and “high-fidelity” environment. Then Mavericks is opening up its doors to 1,000 players at a time in its persistent world, thanks to SpatialOS’ tech.
“We’ve combined a number of new and proven additions that drastically expand on what you’ve seen from the last generation of games,” the studio said, ‘including character progression, deep narrative, intelligent mission systems, social hubs, and a huge world rich in content.”
The team hasn’t started doing dev diaries yet, but it HAS created a dev diary for the upcoming dev diaries, which you can watch after the break and then feel generally fulfilled about your life.
One small title that we’ve been following for a few years now is Forsaken Legends, a procedural sandbox that seemed to package a bunch of creative ideas while being whipped together by a very small team. However, the game got downgraded from an MMO last year and pretty much went into hiatus as the team members had to work on other projects to pay the bills.
The interesting news this month is word that the team was able to bring back on board one of its former devs and is revving back up into full development. Even more interesting is that there was mention of the game adopting SpatialOS to enable Forsaken Legends to graduate back into the realm of a persistent world MMO.
“We’re going to be able to go back to our original game ideas we had for Forsaken Legends,” the team said. “And as long as everything pans out, we’re going to be able to have that massive, endless, persistent world, procedurally generated with tons of content.”
To generate revenue and try out techniques to use in the MMO, the team is first creating a simpler zombie survival game as a “test bed.”
Let us make an already interesting MMO news day a bit more so, shall we? How about the introduction of a brand-new, full-fledged MMORPG in development with AAA credentials and some notable game industry vets at the helm?
The game in question is code-named Project C, a sci-fi MMO that takes place on a single-shard hostile world. It sounds incredibly intriguing and not afraid of to embrace the massively multiplayer experience:
If the recent silence in Fractured’s neck of the woods has troubled you, just remember that sometimes quiet can mean good as well as bad. In this case, the team said that it has some pretty big reveals in the works, but fans will have to be patient for all of the details.
The first is word that the sandbox MMO is about to land some much-needed funding: “I’m incredibly happy to announce that, after long negotiations, we’re about to hit a major milestone in securing funding for Fractured. By ‘about to,’ I mean we’re actually only a few days away! While I can’t say more on this at the moment, we’ll officially disclose everything to you and to the press really soon — on the 13th of March, if all goes as planned.”
The team also said that it is working on a blog post that will tackle Fractured’s vision for PvP and a video to show off group PvE action in the title’s SpatialOS engine.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Conqueror’s Blade, MapleStory Blitz, Darkfall: Rise of Agon, Skyforge, Path of Exile, Armored Warfare Assault, Aura Kingdom, and MechWarrior Online, all waiting for you after the break!
Back in September of last year, we covered a mysterious “tactical shooter MMO” called Projext X by Automaton Games. Its chief claims to fame revolved around scale: It says it can support 1000 concurrent players to a 12km-square shared world without sacrificing graphical fidelity, set in a “huge, photoreal, and highly dynamic environment, with strong character progression, social hubs, intelligent mission systems, and global-scale player-driven narrative.” AND A PONY. OK, no ponies. But it does have a battle royale mode, so you know where this is going.
PC Gamer reports today that Automaton will debut the game’s first gameplay footage at the PC Gamer Weekender event in London in February, so expect more on the game in the next few weeks.
Also worth noting is that the game is being built partly on SpatialOS, the distributed computing platform that snagged half a billion bucks in investor funding last year – and that MMO Chronicles of Elyria just dropped because it couldn’t handle that game’s size without too much expense.
Chronicles of Elyria’s latest dev blog is out, and it’s more than just a recap of 2017 and look ahead to 2018, although it has that too: It makes the announcement that the game will no longer be utilizing SpatialOS.
“In January of 2017 we began the long process of taking what was mostly an offline, single-player game – designed primarily to validate user experience and gameplay feel – and turn it into a MEOW [Multiplayer Evolving Online World],” says Soulbound Studios. That meant integration with SpatialOS and Unreal Engine 4. But as development progressed, Soulbound explains, it ran into game elements (non spatial systems) that didn’t quite fit the architecture. What’s more, Soulbound argues, the studio was concerned that the game’s large size would make SpatialOS too expensive for it (and therefore for players) long-term.
“Of course, we brought our concerns to Improbable, and over the last eight months they’ve done a fantastic job working with us to try and bring the price down. Unfortunately, it remains an expensive solution for us. To make sure we were prepared, we began looking for alternative technology that could fill any gaps left behind if we were unable to use SpatialOS for any reason.”
Welcome back to our intermittent series on MMOs and other multiplayer games you you’ve never heard of! Let’s run down five more floating to the top of the pile this month.
First up is a Russian indie MMO called Rogalia that I first heard of thanks to former Massively columnist Jeremy Stratton (heya Jeremy!). It’s cute and cartoony and will definitely appeal to old-school isometric sandbox players with its crisp cartoon graphics and detailed UI. Combine all that with the gameplay and it’ll remind you more of Ultima Online than most games that namedrop it! It’s currently $12 on Steam, though it’s set to launch out of early access at some point this month, when the price will likely increase.
“It comes with several substantial under-the-hood upgrades, and some key tools that should help us track down the causes to the infamous client freeze,” says the studio. “This update marks a crucial point in Worlds Adrift’s development, as it further provides a more solid foundation for which to build the game on.”
Specifically, testers should take note that the SpatialOS SDK and Unity engine underpinning the game have received major upgrades, there are a bunch of little bug fixes, lore is flooding into the game, and cheating should be way harder thanks to new anti-cheat implementation.